Spy x Family Code: White Review – A Radical Genre Pivot For a Beloved Anime

Spy x Family Code: White elegantly combines its family fun spy capers with a high stakes cooking competition to concoct a flawed recipe.

Spy X Family Code White Cast
Photo: Wit Studio

There are so many directions that a SPY x FAMILY could pursue. The ongoing anime has a deeply versatile story structure that allows it to indulge in diverse missions so that the series always feels fresh. Accordingly, it’s seriously surprising to see Code: White function as a covert cooking anime movie. 

It’s the type of story that audiences would expect to see in a Food Wars! or Toriko feature film, but not SPY x FAMILY. It’s also an ambitious approach to SPY x FAMILY’s first movie that hedges its bets and is too cautious to disrupt the status quo. Code: White is still rich in classic SPY x FAMILY elements, even if it amounts to an empty meal.

Loid Forger has previously thwarted international incidents, avoided assassination, and pulled off precision exchanges. SPY x FAMILY has repeatedly proven that he’s an expert spy who can make skilled operatives look like fumbling fools. Code: White channels Loid’s talents to help Anya win an Eden Academy cooking competition, of all things. Their quest for culinary excellence sends the Forgers across the globe in search of elusive ingredients and it’s not long before they’re cooking up far more than just a winning recipe. 

Sometimes anime films will take radical genre pivots to better flex the production’s storytelling muscles, like a sports movie or how One Piece Film: Red is ostensibly a musical concert movie. However, a cooking story is quite rare, yet simultaneously oddly fitting for a series like SPY x FAMILY.  This may slightly frustrate longtime fans due to it being such a frivolous and expendable story, even if it’s one that’s still vintage SPY x FAMILY.

Ad – content continues below

Code: White begins with a flashy spy intro at a lavish event that feels like it’s ripped straight out of a James Bond or Mission: Impossible movie. There’s such exciting action right from the film’s opening frames. The only thing that’s missing is Loid shooting directly at the camera through a gun barrel perspective or a lit fuse that starts to burn down as Yor beats up an international operative. This kinetic tempo quickly dissipates in favor of a more character-centric story that occasionally allows chaos to bubble up to its surface. Code: White makes sure that each member of the Forger family gets a chance to independently shine, as well as giving them all the opportunity to excel together as a team. 

Loid leads the charge in Code: White, but Anya, Yor, and even Bond all get separate showcases. Anya remains perpetually adorable in everything she does and she’s still a precocious character who must be protected at all costs. Her extreme facial expressions, while a repetitive well that SPY x FAMILY draws from, always deliver. She’s an endlessly entertaining personality. One of the film’s silliest scenes hinges on her ability to control her bowels, which also prompts the movie’s most visually stunning and dynamic moment. Code: White shifts into a completely disparate animation style. It’s absurd, but in the best way possible.

Some of Code: White’s best segments also belong to Yor, while she defends herself and her loved ones (although the subplot where she’s worried about possible infidelity from Loid is terribly undercooked). There’s one fight sequence in particular that’s immaculately staged and really pushes Wit Studio to their limit. She basically battles a cyborg. For a moment, Code: White channels the adrenaline-pumping intensity of an Attack on Titan or Vinland Saga battle. It’s Code White’s most impressive scene, even if it’s not sugary sweet and sentimental like the majority of the movie. Hopefully any future SPY x FAMILY films aren’t afraid to push the envelope more in this department and embrace a more mature storyline.

SPY x FAMILY Code: White is a satisfying entrypoint and standalone primer story for series newcomers. There’s even a succinct narration during the film’s prologue that makes sure that any fresh-faced viewers understand exactly who these characters are and their relationship to one another. This background context is fairly benign and not unlike a preface that would kick off a new season. However, it also hardly feels necessary considering the pitch-perfect introduction that begins Code: White

There’s a little too much telling over showing here and SPY x FAMILY Code: White could stand to get out of its own way at several points. None of this ever ruins the playful, charming fun that makes this an entertaining cinematic experience. Nothing that Code: White does will stop anyone from being a SPY x FAMILY fan, but there’s plenty in this movie that will still draw in new followers. It’s just not on the same level as other anime series-turned-movies, such as The End of Evangelion, Jujutsu Kaisen 0, or even Dragon Ball Super: Broly

Screenwriter Ichirō Ōkouchi has previously written SPY x FAMILY’s second season, so he’s no stranger to this world. However, he also has a varied career that includes the likes of Code Geass, Devilman Crybaby, SK8 the Infinity, and the recent Kaiju No. 8. These contrasting genre skills occasionally come forward once the Forgers reach the Frigis region. Takashi Katagiri, Code: White’s director, fares even better with his feature film directorial debut, having previously acted as Assistant Director on Wit Studio’s sumptuous Netflix movie, Bubble.

Ad – content continues below

The villain is so important in these sorts of movies, so it’s unfortunate that Code: White’s antagonist, Colonel Snidel, is completely forgettable and doesn’t leave a mark. Snidel is a high-ranking Military Intelligence officer who plans to incite a civil war. It’s certainly a major issue, albeit one that’s perfunctory and leaves the audience feeling cold. This could have been an interesting opportunity for the series to establish its Blofeld or Moriarty equivalent who periodically returns in any future Spy x Family movies instead of this more disposable obstacle. Spy x Family Code: White is very clearly interested in showcasing the Forger family – especially Anya – rather than any new characters. The movie certainly succeeds on this front and celebrates why these characters have become so popular, but this doesn’t have to come at the expense of a compelling, well-developed enemy.

SPY x FAMILY Code: White is an entertaining adventure that never wears out its welcome. It’s hardly mandatory viewing and fans won’t be losing much if they miss this film. However, it’s still incredibly fun and an effective distillation of why SPY x FAMILY has become one of the biggest anime hits of the 2020s. Code: White is a film that plays it very safe, but this is hopefully just the first of many SPY x FAMILY movies that become increasingly willing to take risks and push the Forger family out of their comfort zones.

SPY x FAMILY Code: White will play in select theaters, both subbed and dubbed, starting April 19.


3 out of 5